T20 Canada 2008 October 14, 2008

Confusion surrounds Yousuf's Canada visa

Mohammad Yousuf was picked in the 15-man squad for the T20 Canada but couldn't travel after he didn't receive a visa in time from Canadian authorities © AFP

Confusion continues to surround the reasons behind Mohammad Yousuf's unavailability to play for Pakistan in the recently-concluded Twenty20 four-nation tournament in Canada.

Yousuf was picked in the 15-man squad but couldn't travel after he didn't receive a visa in time from Canadian authorities. Cricinfo has learnt he has still not received back his passport, which is believed to be going through an unspecified review process.

Remarkably, both Yousuf and the Pakistan board say they have not been given any concrete reasons over why his visa application should take any longer than normal. All applications were made on October 7 and visas were given the next day. The team flew out the same evening. "I wasn't told anything about why there was a delay," Yousuf told Cricinfo. "You will have to ask the PCB."

The board, however, wasn't in a position to shed further light. "At the time the Canadian High Commission told us only that the visa was still in process," Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer PCB, told Cricinfo. No one from the High Commission was available for comment.

One well-placed diplomatic official said the board didn't pursue the matter at all. "After the visa didn't happen in one day, the board also didn't pursue it at all," the official told Cricinfo. "They dropped him immediately."

There was speculation also that Canadian authorities wanted to review past trips made by Yousuf to the country, where incidentally as Yousuf Youhana, he scored his second ODI hundred in 1999. "It could be that there are old issues they are looking at, a visa he didn't travel on or something similar," a board official told Cricinfo.

The matter, unfortunately, wasn't pursued to any great degree by the board, a lack of proper organisation and thus time - the applications were made just one day before departure and the squad was finalised one day before as well - hampering efforts.

If it is difficult to imagine a top cricketer from another country facing similar problems, it is more difficult still to imagine a cricket board not making a bigger fuss. "We got in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but they said the visa hadn't been rejected and was just being reviewed," said Naghmi.

The board's inactivity is made more remarkable still by the fact that they have paid for and facilitated the trip for a number of journalists to cover the tournament. Though it is official policy, it raises the basic question of why the board could so easily ensure the presence of such a large media contingent in Canada - some counts had the figure at 15 - but not of arguably their best batsman.

The situation comes against a backdrop in which Yousuf's place in limited-overs cricket is being openly discussed, despite being a leading ODI scorer over the last two years. Though he was eventually selected in the squad, he wasn't in the initial list of probables. He was picked after he lashed out at selectors for not considering him. He was also not picked last year for Pakistan's squad for the Twenty20 World Cup.

This latest setback aside, however, Yousuf says he has no intentions of stepping away from the shorter versions of the game. "Why should I step down? We can't tell the future but I want to play on in all three formats of the game.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo